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HR Doctor

Avoiding ADA Complaints in County Employment Practices

Dear HR Doctor,

My county is experiencing complaints alleging that we discriminate against the disabled in hiring. I am concerned as a county leader about a growing number of these complaints. What do you advise?


County Colleague


Dear "Colleague,"

In 1992 the greatest expansion in a generation of America's landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 took effect. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) extended employment nondiscrimination to "qualified persons with disabilities" - tens of millions of new "protected group members."

The vagueness of some of the words and definitions in the ADA create many opportunities for plaintiffs' attorneys to attack personnel policies. They create many challenges for human resource professionals and for county elected and appointed officials as well.

In response to this challenge, most ADA implementation has been "defensive" - respond to complaints already filed, develop "reasonable accommodations" after a problem arises, etc. These are important components of a program to minimize legal liabilities.

However, the HR Doctor urges that another component be consciously built into county programs - a proactive program to "get in front" of liabilities.

For example:

The HR Doctor's advice is to think of ADA as a wonderful public policy, opening opportunities to millions. Take it from one whose parents were disabled, by focusing county thinking on "abilities" rather than "disabilities," the ADA becomes a positive part of HR policies, and the county government as well as disabled persons come out "winners."

Best wishes,

The HR Doctor

(If anyone is interested in obtaining additional information on the HR column or joining the National Association of County Human Resource Administrators, please contact Donna Boykin at 202/942-4207.)
(The HR Doctor was written by Phil Rosenberg, director of Human Resources, Broward County, Fla.)



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